HS Football: Willis Celebrates Win Over the Highlanders to Remain Unbeaten

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 10/28/2023

D.J. Lagway bursts into open space past Highlander defenders for the score.

THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The Willis Wildkats (9-0) defeated the perennial powerhouse Woodlands Highlanders (7-3) in a 60-52 statement win to claim sole possession of first place in 13-6A.

The narrative before the teams collided was the caliber of opponent the Wildkats had beaten. Willis’ unbeaten record was questioned in high school football circles, but the naysayers only fueled the Wildkats’ drive during the break.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Willis Head Coach Trent Miller spoke on how his team used the negativity around them as a warcry for the team in the locker room.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” said Miller. “We are who we think we are.”

The start was slow for both teams as the offenses struggled to connect early on. Quarterbacks Lagway and Mettauer failed to connect with receivers and instead favored the run game to pick up yards against their opponents.

The Woodlands used this ground attack to punch their way into the endzone for the game's first score. Mabrey Mettauer took in a designed quarterback run near the goal line for a 7-0 lead against the slow-starting Willis offense.

Willis continued to handicap themselves with penalties on holds and personal fouls, forcing them to settle for a field goal for the team’s first score.

Following the start of the second quarter, a shootout between two high-flying offenses began. Both teams reciprocated every score throughout the quarter. The lead would bounce back and forth, with the Wildkats being the team to take it after the dust settled.

Lengthy rushes from Lagway got the Wildkats on the board in one-play drives, as well as connecting through the air to Jermaine Bishop Jr. for scores via the passing game.

Not to be outdone, Mettauer and the Highlanders responded with explosive plays of their own. Passes to Quanell Farrakhan Jr. diced up the Willis defenders and helped set up short rushes for points from Mettauer.

A critical play came near the midway point of the second quarter, as Mettauer was hit and rushed to a hospital before the half came to an end. This sudden change brought Patrick Miller into the quarterback spot for the Woodlands, forcing him to put together the pieces and get his team back in front.

That control never came back for the Highlanders. Lagway and the Willis Wildkats were too productive to be stopped during the second half, as the team scored at will.

Improvised throws from Lagway to his receivers benefited the Wildkats, as the speedy players often found themselves in open space. Most notable was Bishop Jr., who ended his day with three receiving touchdowns.

“He is unbelievable,” said Miller about his sophomore receiver. “He’s got that motor and that refuse-to-lose attitude.”

Even though he was suddenly thrust into the matchup as a replacement, Patrick Miller and the Highlander offense continually put up points to keep their team within reach of Willis. More passing scores to Farrakhan Jr. and Shane Walker kept the lead to single digits during the second half.

However, the lead was all that Willis needed as the high-horsepower offense elected to downshift in the fourth quarter. A traditional run game that favored eating the clock saw the Wildkats limit the potential for the Highlanders to fight their way back into the game.

With the gameplan shifted, the runningbacks began to take over for Willis, with easy scores coming inside the Woodlands 10-yard line. Terri Lawrence III saw his production skyrocket in the final quarter, including a touchdown run as the clock drew closer to zeroes.

Being the fighters they are, the Woodlands continued to scrap for points, knowing that they would likely have to settle for the loss. Some accurate throws from Miller got into the endzone, but the effort was too late to seal a comeback. Willis came away with a shootout victory against the historically dominant Highlanders 60-52.

The win establishes the Willis Wildkats as the only unbeaten team left in district play and clinches the district championship for the time being. Celebration rang out on the Willis sidelines and stands as the team rejoiced in their drastic turnaround from just a year ago.

“It is a special feeling,” said Miller on the victory. “This town has been waiting a long time for a statement, program defining win like that. And for us to bring that to them, it has been truly special.”

The Highlanders’ season ends in defeat and a second-place spot going into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Wildkats still have one opponent remaining on their schedule, being the Oak Ridge War Eagles and their vaunted defense.

“It does not get any easier,” said Miller. “We needed to be battle-tested from an adversity standpoint because we’re going to be playing games like this in the playoffs.”

That final test will be at home against the War Eagles on Friday, November 3rd with the live stream available for free on The Woodlands Online Sports.

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